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Home : Media : News
NEWS | May 10, 2023

USS Forrestal Model Sails to New Location at National Museum of the U.S. Navy

By Benjamin Morley, NSWC Carderock Division Public Affairs

A model of USS Forrestal (CVA 59) was moved to a new location in the National Museum of the U.S. Navy at Washington Naval Yard in Washington, D.C., during the first two weeks of April. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division team, led by Jennifer Marland, the Assistant Curator with the Office of the Curator, together with museum staff, carefully maneuvered the 25-foot-long model from Building 70 to Building 76. The move was part of the museum’s plan to relocate to a new location.

The museum houses artifacts and models that tell the story of the U.S. Navy. Forrestal, along with 72 other models, are currently on loan to the museum by Carderock. Historically, the command has loaned more than 140 models to the museum.

“We are lenders to the museum,” Marland said. “Carderock’s work with them to ensure they have the models they need to tell their story. If the models need conservation work, we get that done before they go to the new exhibit.”

The Forrestal model was built by Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia and has had a rich history since it was delivered to the Navy in November 1956. It was first displayed at the Naval Academy; it took part in President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s inaugural parade in 1957 and subsequently returned to the Naval Academy. It has been in the National Museum of the United States Navy since October 1966, starting in Building 76 then moved to Building 70 in 2004. It now stands proudly back in Building 76.

A fan favorite of Carderock’s model collection, Forrestal is the last modern model aircraft carrier built for the Navy at 1:48 scale. That scale is a quarter inch to the foot, with Forrestal measuring out to 25-feet long.

When a new ship is designed by the ship program, part of the first-of-the-class responsibility is to procure a number of models that become part of the Curator of Model collection to help showcase that class’s history, according to Marland. When that class is no longer in service, the model provides a way to share the memories and stories of the Sailors who served aboard these vessels.

The Navy is currently renovating the museum, and staff are vacating Building 70 to support plans for a new museum location. Building 70, also known as the Taylor Building, was built by Rear Adm. David W. Taylor as proof on concept for what became Carderock. It was originally the historic Experimental Model Basin.

While under renovations, the museum currently has three exhibits open with a fourth one coming soon. The newest exhibit will include three airship models from Carderock including a hanging USS Macon (ZRS 5), a popular model that is a holdover from a previous exhibit.

“The Forrestal model was moved to Building 70 in preparation for an enlarged Cold War gallery,” Marland said. “Additionally, future exhibit plans for the National Museum of the United States Navy have changed, and it required moving the model back to Building 76, where it will go into storage until it’s needed for a future exhibit that is in the works.”

The actual move was a complicated multi-day process. It required ingenuity and teamwork to succeed and highlighted the ongoing relationship between Carderock and the museum. Over the course of three days, there were several challenges such as the rain on day two. But for Marland and the Carderock team, the biggest challenge was transporting the model from Building 76 to Building 70. Historically, a trailer was used to haul the model, but with only dollies available, some built in the 1930s, the Carderock team had to get creative.

The first day the model Forrestal was taken out of its display case and moved to a display table in Building 70. The textured floor created an uneven surface in Building 76, which could cause the display case to crack and damage the model due to unequal weight distribution. Therefore, on day two, the team pushed the model to a location in front of Building 70 to protect it from the weather while they assembled and leveled the display table at its new location.

“The display location in Building 70 was very flat,” Marland said. “The display location in Building 76 has a textured floor that is very uneven. When we moved the table over it had to be leveled for its new location. The previous settings wouldn’t work.”

On the final day the Carderock team together with museum staff moved the model Forrestal through a parking lot, down an alley, into the museum’s backdoor and up to the floor of the model’s new location. The circuitous route was the flattest course possible.

“It gets complicated when you start moving something this long, large and heavy,” Marland said. “We wanted to make sure that the weight was properly distributed to enable it to ride flat with minimal roll and to be safe for the crew that would help push it to where it currently is. Safety for the staff is absolutely paramount in such a situation where we have to have people underneath the model to raise and lower it to get it into the case. To aide in all of this, the staff ‘Macgyvered’ wooden supports to better ensure weight distribution and staff safety.”

Marland is satisfied with the Carderock team’s work relocating many models over many months for the museum. In total, there were nearly 140 models located at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy, roughly 70 of which were recently relocated to Carderock in an effort that has taken place over the past six months.

“I am happy to be near the end of this massive de-installation project,” she said. “The ease with which Forrestal moved was a really great way to end this long series of complicated and complex movements of models. To have it go as planned, save for the weather, is not bad.”